Science, Technology, and Current Futurism
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How did primate brains get so big?

How did primate brains get so big? | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Virtual brains reconstructed from ancient, kiwi-sized primate skulls could help resolve one of the most intriguing evolutionary mysteries: how modern primates developed large brains.
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Saliency, switching, attention and control: a network model of insula function

Saliency, switching, attention and control: a network model of insula function | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it

The insula is a brain structure implicated in disparate cognitive, affective, and regulatory functions, including interoceptive awareness, emotional responses, and empathic processes. While classically considered a limbic region, recent evidence from network analysis suggests a critical role for the insula, particularly the anterior division, in high-level cognitive control and attentional processes. The crucial insight and view we present here is of the anterior insula as an integral hub in mediating dynamic interactions between other large-scale brain networks involved in externally oriented attention and internally oriented or self-related cognition. The model we present postulates that the insula is sensitive to salient events, and that its core function is to mark such events for additional processing and initiate appropriate control signals. The anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex form a “salience network” that functions to segregate the most relevant among internal and extrapersonal stimuli in order to guide behavior. Within the framework of our network model, the disparate functions ascribed to the insula can be conceptualized by a few basic mechanisms: (1) bottom–up detection of salient events, (2) switching between other large-scale networks to facilitate access to attention and working memory resources when a salient event is detected, (3) interaction of the anterior and posterior insula to modulate autonomic reactivity to salient stimuli, and (4) strong functional coupling with the anterior cingulate cortex that facilitates rapid access to the motor system. In this manner, with the insula as its integral hub, the salience network assists target brain regions in the generation of appropriate behavioral responses to salient stimuli. We suggest that this framework provides a parsimonious account of insula function in neurotypical adults, and may provide novel insights into the neural basis of disorders of affective and social cognition.

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Next: Wearable neurotechnologies to improve sleep and circadian rhythm regulation

Next: Wearable neurotechnologies to improve sleep and circadian rhythm regulation | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Under Contract with US Army Research Office, Brain State Technologies Makes Wearable Devices for Sleep Enhancement (Sleep Review): "Brain State Technologies LLC has produced prototypes of a wearabl...

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When the brain can't make its own maps

When the brain can't make its own maps | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it

People with a rare neurological condition called Developmental Topographical Disorientation, or DTD, can even get lost inside their own houses.

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A Machine That Trains Your Brain to Pay Attention

A Machine That Trains Your Brain to Pay Attention | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
A new brain-scanning technique could change the way scientists think about human focus.

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Spaceweaver's curator insight, February 11, 2015 6:06 PM

Interesting new method, using neuronal signals read by fMRI machine to create feedback loops that help humans to train certain abilities which are not available to conscious access.

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Mitochondria Munchers | The Scientist Magazine®

Mitochondria Munchers | The Scientist Magazine® | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Most cells clean up their own damaged mitochondria by transporting the organelles into lysosomes, where they are digested internally. Lysosomes are located in the cell body, so neurons with long axons were thought to shuttle far-off axonal mitochondria back to the cell bodies for disposal. Nicholas Marsh-Armstrong of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and colleagues observed that in mice, retinal glial cells called astrocytes, clustered around the head of the optic nerve, were constantly chomping up cellular parcels extruded by axons in the nerve, leading Marsh-Armstrong to wonder what the neurons might be exporting for degradation.
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Study shows how brain maps develop to help us perceive the world

Study shows how brain maps develop to help us perceive the world | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
the order in which we see things could help the brain calibrate how we perceive time, as well as the objects around us.
Sharrock's insight:

"the order in which we see things could help the brain calibrate how we perceive time, as well as the objects around us."

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Astrocytes, The Brain's Lesser Known Cells, Get Some Cognitive Respect

"What I thought quite unique was the idea that astrocytes, traditionally considered only guardians and supporters of neurons and other cells, are also involved in the processing of information and in other cognitive behavior," says Verma, a professor in the Laboratory of Genetics and American Cancer Society Professor.

Sharrock's insight:

excerpt: "It's not that astrocytes are quick—they're still slower than neurons. But the new evidence suggests that astrocytes are actively supplying the right environment for gamma waves to occur, which in turn makes the brain more likely to learn and change the strength of its neuronal connections."

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Secrets of the Creative Brain

Secrets of the Creative Brain | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
A leading neuroscientist who has spent decades studying creativity shares her research on where genius comes from, whether it is dependent on high IQ—and why it is so often accompanied by mental illness. 
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Playing Games Keeps Your Brain Young - BrainFacts.org

Crossword puzzles and similar games can help you learn words and improve specific skills, but they won’t enhance overall brain function.
Sharrock's insight:

Exploit the brain-body connection: "If you want to preserve your mental abilities, exercise your body. A healthy diet and regular exercise can help maintain memory and general cognition, particularly later in life. Starting habits that promote healthy cognitive aging early in life can preserve brain function during aging. Studies show that foods rich in nutrients and antioxidants appear to reduce the risks of age-related impairment. Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the brain, and even lessens the rate of tissue loss during aging."

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Different Facets of Memory - BrainFacts.org

Different Facets of Memory - BrainFacts.org | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
From remembering a friend's face to figuring out where you left your keys, the act of memory has many dimensions.
Sharrock's insight:

There are different kinds of memory: "Different areas and systems of the brain are responsible for different kinds of memory. The hippocampus, parahippocampal region, and areas of the cerebral cortex (including the prefrontal cortex) work together to support declarative, or cognitive, memory. Different forms of nondeclarative, or behavioral, memory are supported by the amygdala, striatum, and cerebellum." 

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Transparent Brain Technique Made Easier : DNews

Transparent Brain Technique Made Easier : DNews | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
The CLARITY technique is being used to image donated, postmortem brains from people with autism or epilepsy.
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Neuron Light Switch Now Goes “On” and “Off” | MIT Technology Review

Neuron Light Switch Now Goes “On” and “Off” | MIT Technology Review | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
A new optogenetic protein gives neuroscientists more control over brain circuits.

 

Optogenetics is a recent innovation in neuroscience that gives researchers the ability to control the activity of neurons with light. With this powerful tool, researchers are teasing apart the biological basis of memory, behavior, and disease (see “Scientists Make Mice ‘Remember’ Things That Didn’t Happen” and “An On-Off Switch for Anxiety,”). But for the first several years of this technology’s existence, the proteins that scientists added to neurons to make them react to light were only good at activating neurons. That limited researchers’ ability to understand neuronal circuits, sets of interconnected neurons that are thought to control behavior and, when misfiring, to underlie many brain conditions. Problems can arise from any imbalance in circuit activity, whether too much or too little. 


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Explainer: the brain

Explainer: the brain | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Over the last 15 years, the methods used to study the brain have advanced significantly, and with this so has our understanding. Which makes the task of explaining the most complex organ in the body, well, complex.
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B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review

B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
The B-vitamins comprise a group of eight water soluble vitamins that perform essential, closely inter-related roles in cellular functioning, acting as co-enzymes in a vast array of catabolic and anabolic enzymatic reactions. Their collective effects are particularly prevalent to numerous aspects of brain function, including energy production, DNA/RNA synthesis/repair, genomic and non-genomic methylation, and the synthesis of numerous neurochemicals and signaling molecules. However, human epidemiological and controlled trial investigations, and the resultant scientific commentary, have focused almost exclusively on the small sub-set of vitamins (B9/B12/B6) that are the most prominent (but not the exclusive) B-vitamins involved in homocysteine metabolism. Scant regard has been paid to the other B vitamins. This review describes the closely inter-related functions of the eight B-vitamins and marshals evidence suggesting that adequate levels of all members of this group of micronutrients are essential for optimal physiological and neurological functioning. Furthermore, evidence from human research clearly shows both that a significant proportion of the populations of developed countries suffer from deficiencies or insufficiencies in one or more of this group of vitamins, and that, in the absence of an optimal diet, administration of the entire B-vitamin group, rather than a small sub-set, at doses greatly in excess of the current governmental recommendations, would be a rational approach for preserving brain health.
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You & Your Hormones | Glands | Pituitary gland

You & Your Hormones | Glands | Pituitary gland | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
the pituitary gland controls metabolism, growth, sexual maturation, reproduction, blood pressure and many other vital physical functions and processes.
Sharrock's insight:

Reason #3 why we will not upload into a computer.

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Sorting Out Emotions | Caltech

Sorting Out Emotions | Caltech | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Building on previous studies targeting the amygdala, a team of researchers has found that some brain cells recognize emotions based on the viewer's preconceptions rather than the true emotion being expressed.
Sharrock's insight:

"These are very exciting findings suggesting that the amygdala doesn't just respond to what we see out there in the world, but rather to what we imagine or believe about the world," says Ralph Adolphs, the Bren Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Caltech and coauthor of a paper that discusses the team's study.  "It's particularly interesting because the amygdala has been linked to so many psychiatric diseases, ranging from anxiety to depression to autism.  All of those diseases are about experiences happening in the minds of the patients, rather than objective facts about the world that everyone shares."


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Sandeep Gautam's curator insight, March 2, 2015 12:49 AM

emotions are the products of our mind, as much as they are of objective reality out there!

Miklos Szilagyi's curator insight, March 4, 2015 3:29 AM

Another, deeper roots to our biases... on the brain-cell level... well, that might be a challenge...

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Scientists locate ‘homing signal’ in the brain, explaining why some people are better navigators

Scientists locate ‘homing signal’ in the brain, explaining why some people are better navigators | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it

The part of the brain that tells us the direction to travel when we navigate has been identified by UCL scientists, and the strength of its signal predicts how well people can navigate.

 

It has long been known that some people are better at navigating than others, but until now it has been unclear why. The latest study, funded by the Wellcome Trust and published in Current Biology, shows that the strength and reliability of ‘homing signals’ in the human brain vary among people and can predict navigational ability.

 

In order to successfully navigate to a destination, you need to know which direction you are currently facing and which direction to travel in. For example, ‘I am facing north and want to head east’. It is already known that mammals have brain cells that signal the direction that they are currently facing, a discovery that formed part of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to UCL Professor John O’Keefe.

 

The latest research reveals that the part of the brain that signals which direction you are facing, called the entorhinal region, is also used to signal the direction in which you need to travel to reach your destination. This part of the brain tells you not only which direction you are currently facing, but also which direction you should be facing in the future. In other words, the researchers have found where our ‘sense of direction’ comes from in the brain and worked out a way to measure it using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

 

In the study, 16 healthy volunteers were asked to navigate a simple square environment simulated on a computer. Each wall had a picture of a different landscape, and each corner contained a different object. Participants were placed in a corner of the environment, facing a certain direction and asked how to navigate to an object in another corner.

 

Dr Martin Chadwick (UCL Experimental Psychology), lead author of the study, said: “Our results provide evidence to support the idea that your internal ‘compass’ readjusts as you move through the environment. For example, if you turn left then your entorhinal region should process this to shift your facing direction and goal direction accordingly. If you get lost after taking too many turns, this may be because your brain could not keep up and failed to adjust your facing and goal directions.”


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Researchers Provide First Peek at How Neurons Multitask

Researchers Provide First Peek at How Neurons Multitask | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it

Researchers at the University of Michigan have shown how a single neuron can perform multiple functions in a model organism, illuminating for the first time this fundamental biological mechanism and shedding light on the human brain.

Investigators in the lab of Shawn Xu at the Life Sciences Institute found that a neuron in C. elegans, a tiny worm with a simple nervous system used as a model for studying sensation, movement and other neurological function, regulates both the speed and direction in which the worm moves. The individual neurons can route information through multiple downstream neural circuits, with each circuit controlling a specific behavioral output.

The findings are scheduled for online publication in the journal Cell on Nov. 6. The research is also featured on the cover.

"Understanding how the nervous system and genes lead to behavior is a fundamental question in neuroscience, and we wanted to figure out how C. elegans are able to perform a wide range of complex behaviors with their small nervous systems," Xu said.

The C. elegans nervous system contains 302 neurons.

"Scientists think that even though humans have billions of neurons, some perform multiple functions. Seeing the mechanism in worms will help to understand the human brain," Xu said.

The model neuron studied, AIY, regulates at least two distinct motor outputs: locomotion speed and direction-switch. AIY interacts with two circuits, one that is inhibitory and controls changes in the direction of the worm's movement, and a second that is excitatory and controls speed.

"It's important to note that these two circuits have connections with other neurons and may cross-talk with each other," Xu said. "Neuronal control of behavior is very complex."

Xu is a faculty member in the U-M Life Sciences Institute, where his laboratory is located and research conducted. He is also a professor of molecular and integrative physiology at the U-M Medical School.

Other authors on the paper were Zhaoyu Li, Jie Liu and Maohua Zheng, also of the Life Sciences Institute and Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology in the U-M Medical School.
The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
Shawn Xu: www.lsi.umich.edu/labs/shawn-xu-lab ;


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The Time Of Our Lives

The Time Of Our Lives | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it

Living organisms evolved an internal biological clock, called the circadian rhythm, to help their bodies adapt to the daily cycle of day and night (light and dark) as the Earth rotates every 24 hours. The term "circadian" comes from the Latin words for about (circa) a day (diem).

 

Circadian rhythms are controlled by "clock genes" that code for clock proteins. The levels of these proteins rise and fall in rhythmic patterns. These oscillating biochemical signals control various functions, including when we sleep and rest, and when we are awake and active. Circadian rhythms also control body temperature, heart activity, hormone secretion, blood pressure, oxygen consumption, metabolism, and many other functions.

 

Daily cycles also regulate the levels of substances in our blood, including red blood cells, blood sugar, gases, and ions such as potassium and sodium. Our internal clocks may even influence our mood, particularly in the form of wintertime depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

 

A biological clock has three parts: a way to receive light, temperature, or other input from the environment; the protein and chemicals that make up the clock itself; and components that help the clock control the activity of other genes.

In the last few decades, scientists have discovered the genes that control internal clocks: period (per), clock (clk), cycle (cyc), timeless (tim), frequency (frq), doubletime (dbt) and others. Clock genes have been found in organisms ranging from people to mice, fish, fruit flies, plants, molds, and even single-celled cyanobacteria.

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New clues to how synapses in the brain are programmed | KurzweilAI

New clues to how synapses in the brain are programmed | KurzweilAI | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it

Washington University School of Medicine researchers have identified a group of proteins that program synapses in the brain, controlling neural development and learning, with implications for conditions such as autism.

 

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Scientists Accidentally Discover The Brain's Consciousness "Off Switch"

Scientists Accidentally Discover The Brain's Consciousness "Off Switch" | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
While performing deep brain surgery on a woman with epilepsy, neuroscientists from George Washington University stimulated an area of her brain that unexpectedly — and temporarily — caused her to lose awareness.
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The Molecules that Maintain the Brain - BrainFacts.org

The Molecules that Maintain the Brain - BrainFacts.org | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
A family of proteins determines which nerve cells thrive or die.

 

We're all born with many more nerve cells than we eventually keep. Why do some cells survive and build intricate connections while others wither and die? How do nerve cells know which connections to make? The identification of a protein that tells nerve cells where to grow forever changed the way scientists think about cell growth and degeneration. Such insight is giving scientists new ways to study diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression. 
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Your Brain in 2050: Neural Implants and Robotic Limbs : DNews

Your Brain in 2050: Neural Implants and Robotic Limbs : DNews | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Brain technology could one day allow humans to naturally control robotic limbs or replace human sight.
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How Human Rights Will Change When Everyone Can Upgrade Their Brains

How Human Rights Will Change When Everyone Can Upgrade Their Brains | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
The analysts at the Institute for the Future present new research about our weird times. 

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